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Vallen Contributions Tied to Pro-Israel Supporters

November 16, 1986|TRACY WOOD and KENNETH REICH | Times Staff Writers

It appeared to be a classic example of indirect politics--giving to a minor party candidate to drain votes away from a major contender.

A group of more than 40 contributors, many of them members of orthodox Jewish congregations in Los Angeles, gave $120,000 in the last two weeks of the campaign to an American Independent Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in California who now says he would never have taken the money had he known where it came from.

The candidate, Edward B. Vallen, was avowedly "against the Zionists" and his campaign manager, Iris Shidler, said neither she nor Vallen wanted to have anything to do with Jewish support. They said they were told by an intermediary the money came from "conservative, patriotic Christians."

The Jews among Vallen's list of contributors, according to a few who have talked to The Times, were especially interested in Israel and Jewish causes. Those interviewed said their purpose in giving to Vallen was to aid the election efforts of incumbent Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston, and undercut the campaign of his Republican challenger, Rep. Ed Zschau, who was viewed as iffy on Israel and Middle East issues.

The American Independent candidate used the money to go on television and try to win conservative Republican votes away from Zschau, claiming he was not conservative enough and saying that Vallen and Cranston were the only men of integrity in the race.

Not Decisive

The effort in the last days of the tight Cranston-Zschau contest was not decisive. Vallen ended up getting 107,405 votes statewide, about 1.5% of the total, and Cranston's victory margin over Zschau was 116,622. So even if all of Vallen's votes had gone to Zschau, Cranston still would have won.

But the contributions remain a mysterious and potentially controversial development in the hard-fought Senate campaign. It still is not known who arranged to raise the money or who organized the effort to aid Vallen to defeat Zschau.

There may have been significant legal violations in the way the contributions were made and reported.

Most of the gifts listed with federal and state election authorities appear to exceed the legal limits on individual giving to candidates for federal office.

Federal law limits individuals to giving $1,000 to a candidate during a primary election and another $1,000 during the general.

Federal Election Commission officials in Washington say that a person is not permitted to give $2,000 to a candidate at the end of a general election campaign, as was done in the Vallen campaign, unless it can be shown that $1,000 of it would be used to defray debts incurred in the primary. But Vallen's campaign manager, Iris Shidler, said that Vallen had no outstanding debts left over from the primary.

So far, all of the 11th-hour contributions reported to Vallen's campaign were for at least $2,000, and eight were for $4,000.

One $4,000 contributor, Rene Lang Burg of Sherman Oaks, said that the contribution should have been reported as coming from both her and her husband. That would be legal if it could be shown that half of the money had been used to defray primary election debts.

Although most of the contributors contacted by The Times appeared to have the means to make such contributions, relatives of two of the donors say that their family members could never have afforded the $2,000 contributions listed for them. The relatives speculate that the money must have come from some unidentified third party. If so, the contributions would constitute illegal laundering of money. Finally, some of the contributions were not reported to the secretary of the U.S. Senate within 48 hours as required.

No One Willing to Talk

Direct or indirect contacts with as many of the donors as could be reached--about half of them--found not a single one willing to tell who had collected the money from them, or who had solicited them for it. Several of these persons promised to return telephone calls and then did not do so. Others canceled interview appointments after checking with parties they would not identify.

Mark Barnes, the conservative Republican Los Angeles political consultant who delivered the list of contributions to Vallen, likewise refused to identify the man who he said had passed the donations to him. Barnes said on two occasions that he had sought permission from this person to divulge his name, but the individual insisted on remaining anonymous.

There are some indications, however, that San Fernando Valley businessman Michael Goland--a fervently pro-Israel activist who spent $1.1 million of what he said was his own money to defeat Israel skeptic Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.) in 1984--may be behind the contributions to Vallen.

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